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Misleading Home Office adverts promoting Labour policing policy to be banned

Police The Guardian today has a leak of the Advertising Standards Authority's adjudication on a Home Office advertising campaign, which says it must be withdrawn immediately:

The Advertising Standards Authority has told the Home Office that its television adverts highlighting the government's "policing pledge" that neighbourhood officers can now be expected to spend 80% of their time on the beat is to be banned with immediate effect.

The ASA says in an adjudication to be published next week that the television ad breaches its "legal, decent, honest, truthful" code because it is misleading on at least three counts.

"The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form. We told the Home Office to ensure the basis of claims was made clear in future. We also told them to ensure they held adequate substantiation for future claims," says the final ASA adjudication, leaked to the Guardian.

More here.

Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling welcomed the ruling, saying:

"Labour will stop at nothing to mislead the country and they seem willing to spend huge sums of honest taxpayers’ money to achieve it."

1pm update:

Chris Grayling has just written the following letter to Gordon Brown:

Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing in the light of the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA’s) decision to ban Home Office advertisements publicising the Policing Pledge because they mislead the public. Now that they have made their decision, I ask you to:

  • Clarify your claim on 1 March 2010 that ‘everyone now has a clear right to see their neighbourhood policing team spending 80 per cent of their time on the beat’ and apologise for using a form of words that breaches the ASA’s ‘legal, decent, honest, truthful’ code in front of a police audience.
  • Give a clear commitment that all local leaflets prepared for Labour Party candidates claiming that ‘we will...pledge that your neighbourhood policing team spends at least 80 per cent of its time on the beat in your community’ will be called back and that letters will be sent to all recipients clarifying your claim.
  • Pulp any Labour Party leaflets making the same claim that have not yet been sent out.
  • Apologise to the public for your Government’s use of more than £5 million of taxpayers’ money to publicise a misleading claim likely to undermine confidence in the good work that our police officers are doing.

The ASA have said that the Home Office advertisement was misleading because it did not spell out that the pledge does not apply to all 140,000 police officers in England and Wales, only to the 13,500 neighbourhood constables and 16,000 community support officers who work in neighbourhood policing teams. The ASA also stressed real concern that the advertised standard for time on the beat is not actually being met and that ‘the advert does not make clear the commitment would not necessarily be delivered.’
Despite your promises to ensure the end of spin you have now spent £200 million more on spin than Tony Blair did in his last year in office. Considering over £5 million has been spent on advertising the Policing Pledge, the least you could do is promise the public that they have a ‘clear right’ not to be misled by their Government at their own expense.

Yours sincerely

Chris Grayling

Jonathan Isaby